The Best American Short Stories 2020 by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Best American Short Stories 2020 by Curtis Sittenfeld

Author:Curtis Sittenfeld
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781328484109
Publisher: HMH Books
Published: 2020-11-03T00:00:00+00:00

* * *

I was making a new album. I was making it for me but also for Tony, to show him it was still possible, in these times, to maintain a sense of self.

My last album had come out a year earlier. I had been on tour in Europe promoting it when the election came and went. At the time I had justified the scheduling: Tony would want to celebrate with his team anyway, I would just get in the way. Perhaps I had been grateful for an excuse. On the campaign Tony had been lit with a blind passion I’d never been able to summon for tangible things. I’d understood it—​how else could you will yourself to work that much?—​I’d even lauded it, I’d wanted his candidate to win too. Still, the pettiest part of me couldn’t help resenting his work like a mistress resents a wife. I imagined the election-night victory party as the climax of a fever dream, after which Tony would step out, cleansed, and be returned to me.

Of course nothing turned out how I’d imagined.

My own show had to go on.

I remember calling Tony over Google Voice backstage between shows, at coffee shops, in the bathroom of the hotel room I shared with Amy the percussionist—​wherever I had Wi-Fi. I remember doing mental math whenever I looked at a clock—​what time was it in America, was Tony awake? The answer, I learned, was yes. Tony was always awake. Often he was drunk. He picked up the phone but did not have much to say. I pressed my ear against the screen and listened to him breathe.

I remember Amy turning her phone to me: “Isn’t this your boyfriend?” We were on a train from Brussels to Amsterdam. I saw Tony’s weeping face, beside another weeping face I knew: Jen’s. I zoomed out. Jen’s arms were wrapped around Tony’s waist; Tony’s arm hugged her shoulder. The photograph was in a listicle published by a major American daily showing the losing candidate’s supporters on election night, watching the results come in. I remembered that Jen had flown in to join Tony at the victory arena, in order to be “a witness to history.” The photo-list showed the diversity of the supporters: women in headscarves, disabled people, gay couples. Tony and Jen killed two birds in one stone: Asian America, and an ostensibly mixed-race couple. Jen was half Chinese but she looked exotic white—​Italian, or Greek.

That night I’d called Tony. “How are you?” I’d asked as usual, and then: “I was thinking maybe I should just come back. Should I come back? I hate this tour.” There was a long silence. Finally Tony said, “Why?” In his voice a mutter of cosmic emptiness.

I have one memory of sobbing under bright white lights, some terrible noise cracking into speakers turned too high. This might have been a dream.

For a long time after, I was estranged from music. What feelings normally mediated themselves in soundscapes, a well I could plumb for composition, hit me with their full blunt force.


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